by John McNamer
Officials of the Harper government responsible for the execution of the Mission in Afghanistan seem to be about the only ones left on the face of the planet who do not understand that Canada has been, and continues to be in violation, of international law by transferring Afghan detainees into the danger of torture at the hands of US and Afghan authorities.
The UN Committee against Torture recently met to examine Canada's compliance with obligations under the Convention against Torture and in its report left no doubt about Canada's "complicity in torture" in the handling of Afghan detainees and other abuses of power such as those related to the unwarranted detainment and torture of Canadian citizens in Syria and Egypt and to the abuse of Omar Khadr at Bagram Prison in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay.
The committee told Canada it "should adopt a policy for future military operations which clearly prohibits the prisoner transfers to another country when there are substantial grounds for believing that he or she would be in danger of being subjected to torture, and recognizes that diplomatic assurances and monitoring arrangements will not be relied upon to justify transfers when such substantial risk of torture exists."
The Harper government's contemptuous and dismissive response to this most respected and credible international body's measured assessment of Canada's flawed policies was quickly summed up for all the world to see with the banner headline on a Washington Post story: "Canada criticizes UN report accusing its troops of complicity in torture in Afghanistan."
Sadly, this huge stain on Canada's international reputation seems to have no impact on the Harper government, which even now continues a policy of once again transferring detainees to another country while there is a substantial risk of torture, i.e., to U.S. authorities. Those same authorities were clearly documented as known torturers in a report I submitted this May to the UN Committee against Torture, a report that was part of its deliberations in finding Canada to be complicit in torture. The report, entitled Canada’s failure to comply with legal obligations under The Convention against Torture and the Rome Statute which prohibits the transfer of detainees into danger of torture at the hands of other authorities can be accessed on the committee website.
I have also submitted this information to Attorney General Rob Nicholson and Governor General David Johnston, asking them to fulfill their duties to remedy the failure of the Canadian government to observe legal obligations under international law and related domestic law. I have also requested that they launch an independent judicial inquiry into all detainee transfers by Canada to all other countries to establish the facts about possible war crimes that may have been committed related to the Afghan Mission.
As well, this information has been sent to the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague. The chief prosecutor's office has publicly indicated in the recent past that a formal investigation may be necessary if there have been possible war crimes which are not being properly dealt with in the Canadian courts.
Responsible Canadian officials might want to start paying attention to the potential for a formal ICC investigation into war crimes related to complicity in detainee torture and do something other than provide continued patronizing lip service to the issue. With the formal condemnation of Canada's complicity in torture by the UN Committee against Torture, the potential for such an investigation looms exponentially larger.
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